Since Bill Gates proclaimed that, “content is king” in his 1996 essay, brands and agencies alike having been clambering over themselves to ensure that they continue to uphold the prophecy. We are finally letting go of word counts and keyword stuffing, and the content that is out there is generally of high quality. Although there are times when in a quest to both educate and entertain, at times we are forgetting about relevancy and even skirting the borders of indecency in a rush to pump the content out.
Oreo’s ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ tweet is perhaps one of the best examples of the power of social media for brands. It was retweeted 15,000 times and their Twitter following quickly increased to 8,000. This tweet, although not planned in advance, WAS part of a carefully structured social media campaign and was by no means a shot in the dark (excuse the pun). Something that brands need to keep at the forefront of their minds (and social media strategy’s) because there have been some outrageous examples of businesses carelessly jumping on a trending topic and then facing a public backlash.
Richard LeCount from USB4Photographers shares his thoughts, “Keeping your business on brand is essential and it needs to extend to all areas of your business. We have steered away from news-jacking so far, it can be risky move and we haven’t developed a fool proof strategy yet. I’m not a believer in ‘all press is good press’, and want to ensure that we have a solid ‘tweeting’ policy in place that covers tone and topics before we move into real-time tweeting about current affairs and events.”
It seems that lately, the culture of ‘always on’ and ‘always reacting’ along with pressure of producing a large amount of content has seen brands become more concerned about appearance rather than substance; and in turn, has given birth to some particularly bad examples of output.
One of the most recent examples in the UK is when Natwest posted their support for Norwich pride; as much as their efforts might have been because they truly care for the LGBT cause. Their sudden support of the LGBT community came across as nothing more than a PR stunt; trying to gain national coverage by jumping on a cause that was particularly high on the agenda. Never had the cause been mentioned by ‘the most hated bank on the high-street’; while many businesses had incorporated the rainbow colours of the LGBT campaigns to show their solidarity and support, the bank had their staff in the accompanying photo in the LinkedIn post wearing Natwest t-shirts and waving a Natwest banner. Their taking part wasn’t about Norwich pride – it was about Natwest. If you took the image away from the context of the post – there would be no link between the brand and the event.
If we take a look stateside – TGI Friday’s recent tweets have probably gone a long way to change brand perception in a big way. There is no doubt that Americas future is on thin ice, so rather than take the approach of supporting your side and demonstrating unity among your fellow countrymen….TGI Fridays decided that a more important debate question to pose was; ‘What’s your favourite everything but the booze drink?’ and of course, they included #debatenight – because why wouldn’t you? To be honest, I actually don’t even understand the question – what are they asking us here?
Perhaps one of the most insensitive examples came about because the company didn’t bother to check the context of the hashtag #WhyIStayed. So, what did DiGiorno Pizza have to add to the thread that is focused on exposing domestic abuse and the pain and survival of victims? “You had pizza”.
Eric Branter, founder of Scribblrs.com concurs, “Do your research before trying to jump on the latest trending hashtag or topic. The folks at DiGiorno Pizza clearly didn’t do their research on the hashtag, and thought it would be a good idea to tweet out a picture of their pizza using that hashtag. The results were predictably awful. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens quite often. Social media moves quickly, so it can be tempting to want to jump in the conversation as fast as possible. But make sure you do your research first so you don’t stick your foot in your mouth.”
Or what about the time that Total Beauty got confused between Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg?
There is no denying the pressure that small businesses or teams can feel; brands want to look ‘on trend’ and relevant but headlines are becoming saturated with irrelevant and irritating content, and not to mention transparent motives. These kind of errors can have lasting effects – you may be able to delete a tweet or un-publish a blog post – but you can’t rewind time and prevent people from seeing it and making their opinion known, in a VERY public manner.
We are living in an age of authenticity and purpose. There should be a solid and well defined reason behind every piece of content that you release into the world, whether it’s online or in print. Is the message right for your audience, what has it got to do with your brand, is the reason behind the content sincere? There has to be some sort of link between the brand and the topic; content for contents sake will get you nowhere.
In a rush to jump on trending topic, it’s important not to lose sight of your brand, compromising its integrity. Moving quickly still needs to involve a degree of strategic thinking, research and all in all – common sense. Daniel Rowles, CEO at Target Internet finishes with some words of advice, “”The key to keeping your social posts and online content relevant is to always have a definite idea of what makes the thing you’re writing valuable to the reader. Are you breaking an interesting piece of news? Are you offering a uniquely enlightening spin on a familiar topic? Are you making them laugh? By going through the process of defining the value proposition of every single thing you post, you’ll soon learn to weed out inadequate content. You may also be able to spot performance trends within your different post types, which can then inform your future strategy.”